'Girl From Monaco' loses her way

LIZ BRAUN - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:16 AM ET

The Girl From Monaco (La fille de Monaco) is a French farce about old fools and young lovers. Weirdly, the film abruptly changes gears in the third act and tries to become a drama, but not for any reason that we can explain.

Here is Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini), a middle-aged, prosperous, defence lawyer who has taken on a high-profile case in Monaco. Bernard is defending Edith Lasalle, a rich older woman (Stephane Audran) accused of murdering a Russian grifter. Edith has fired all the other lawyers who tried to help her, and Bernard is expected to perform miracles with this case.

In Monaco, Bernard is mildly smooching some woman in a public square and talking of love when he notices he's being followed. The man shadowing him turns out to be a bodyguard hired by Edith Lasalle's adult son. The son is concerned that the dead Russian will have dangerous cohorts out for revenge.

The bodyguard, Christophe (Roschdy Zem), is a glum chap of few words. He follows the bodyguard handbook to the letter, trampling all over Bernard's privacy as he attempts to keep him safe. Christophe starts off as a comic character, but various events cause him and Bernard to become rather good friends. Christophe is a stand-up guy, reliable and smart about what he does.

Enter Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), a weathergirl on a local Monaco TV station. Audrey is a total bombshell -- sexy, beautiful, wildly enthusiastic -- and she decides that Bernard is the man for her. So what if she's an idiot gold digger? Bernard is utterly smitten.

Christophe, who knows Monaco and its women (and specifically Audrey), warns Bernard many times to stay away from Audrey. But Bernard just cannot. Even as he defends Edith Lasalle, a woman undone by her relationship with a much younger lover, Bernard's parallel relationship with Audrey takes shape. Both cases, as it turns out, involve love triangles.

Many of the comedic bits in The Girl From Monaco are inspired, and most of them are courtesy Louise Bourgoin, who is adept at physical comedy. As Audrey, she is luminous and peppy and proudly tacky; her pink bedroom, with its stuffed animals and framed photo of Diana, the Princess of Wales, is laugh-out-loud funny.

Bourgoin makes Audrey absolutely irresistible, despite the fact that she's like a shark or a heat-seeking missile when it comes to pursuing Bernard. She brings the perfect combination of fluff and stainless steel to the role.

As the staid lawyer, Luchini is perfect here, and likewise Zem in his role of the wise, calm bodyguard.

The Girl From Monaco will keep you laughing with the wild and wonderful relationships it creates among the characters, but may disappoint you with the way some of those relationships are dismantled. Matters are eventually resolved in a fashion that doesn't really fit with the rest of the movie.

C'est dommage.

The Girl From Monaco is in French, with English subtitles. The movie first played at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.

(This film is rated 14-A)


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